The Syrian Bride

2007-03-19 16:00

Mona, a Druze woman from Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (formerly Syria), is engaged to marry a Syrian television star she's never met. Once she crosses the border into Israeli-occupied Syria, she can never return to her family. But, as the two wedding parties prepare for the handover, old tensions and tragedies are dredged up by the ludicrous workings of a bureaucracy that threatens to take away Mona's hopes of happiness.


The Syrian Bride will probably be marketed as a black comedy - as is almost any foreign movie with a strong sense of the absurd. But here the absurdity is tragic, juxtaposed with the inspiring actions of characters who, despite everything, choose to seek happiness and fight for their dignity.

The movie refuses to be simplistic. Warm feelings often fade when those whose actions once inspired us turn hypocritical and reject those who challenge their way of life. We are constantly reminded of a circle of misery that is closing around the characters.

Mona's impending wedding is the fulcrum around which all the film’s conflicts turn, and there are a lot of conflicts. This complexity is at once the strength of this film, and its failing. Mona's father's position as activist, her brother's exile from the community because of his marriage, her sister's defiance of her husband and her other brother's illegal dealings and romantic entanglements are just a few of the threads that interweave.

Within Mona’s family we discover both defeat and bravery. Her sister Hiam, a feminist by comparison to many women in her culture, is trapped in a loveless arranged marriage. Nevertheless, she's hopeful Mona will find happiness when she marries a man she's never seen (unless watching him on a soap opera, in which he stars as a powerful philanderer, qualifies). But she rejects her brother's wife because she is Russian, despite how much he loves her, an attitude that seems to negate her stand against sexism.

Considering the time available, the emotional depth with which each person's story is explored is impressive. Any one of them could be a film in itself and, because they're explored so briefly, many opportunities for great dialogue and entertaining touches get lost. In trying to say everything, the writers and directors have sacrificed some of the magic that makes us listen to stories.

Overall, though, the film's message is powerfully stated: the political is personal, as anyone living in the rubble of Beruit's once-buildings will tell you. The Syrian Bride helps to make this point in a fresh and compelling way.

The Syrian Bride also avoids judging cultural traditions. Arranged marriages may not be part of everyone's world, but you may find yourself cheering Mona on as she tries to cross the border to Syria and her new life.

In the end you'll be left with a sense of sadness, because all the hatred is so wasteful and so unnecessary. However there's more to this movie than sadness. Although there's not much to laugh at while you're actually watching it, the absurdity at its core makes The Syrian Bride one of those films that is funnier on the way home, and worth thinking about afterwards.

- Jean Barker
The political is painfully personal in this movie about a cross-border arranged marriage set in the strife torn Golan Heights.

sibongile 2007/01/18 9:51 AM
the syrian bride it sounds very good it looks like a help for us to understand people's cultures and emotions - would like to watch it. i wonder though it is more of a drama than a com?
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